AMT/ERTL's USS Defiant

Building and lighting AMT/ERTL's USS Defiant

The first step with any model is to do the background reading. The Defiant is a particular problem as it was the first Star Trek ship to be completely computer rendered - there never was a physical model built. This means that the colours were always modified by the ambient lighting chosen for the scene. A good idea of colour density can be obtained from scanning the images into PhotoShop and matching the colours to Pantone colour cards from an art supplier - this gives relative levels of darkness and a first step to choosing the colours. These CGI shots also reveal the light positions, and again there are differences between episodes - sometimes the Bussard collectors are red, sometimes white - I picked red, as every other ship has red Bussards.

Disclaimer: the ERTL model is licensed to Paramount. I don't sell the models, I just light them and build them for customers who have bought them.

Rare nowadays, with a re-release of just 800 kits wordlwide by ERTL (I got 5 of the 60 to arrive in the UK), the Defiant is back by popular demand!

The basic AT Defiant is produced as a snap-fit kit with very wide tolerances on the parts. There are huge gaps all over the kit, especially at the point where the front and back bulkheads meet the engine fairings. Some surface details are not symmetrical on either side, and have to be moulded and cast in another place, and these are also no transparent pieces provided, so the transparencies on this adaptation were cast from scratch.

The decals are, by contrast very good in terms of colour accuracy and detail, although blow-out panels, lifeboats and hatch accesses are not present and have to be painted on. The surface relief is positive rather than negative and has to be filed right back in order to be weathered properly.

The next step with a lit model is to assemble the light sources onto one board to match the light sources required and balance the light levels. This helps to determine how much space to leave for power regulation and the size of the wiring loom needed - quite substantial in this case. The biggest problem were the reactors along the back - fortunately, high output LED's went through the plastic after it had been sanded thin.

The wiring plan.

The main hull halves are assessed for light position, power plug and wiring loom locations, and the position of internal support structures and bulkheads required.

These are most of the bulkheads required....

The front plate for the engines is punched out and a light box constructed behind - silvered on the inside to reflect the light from the 7 candela LED. It has to be this bright because the front of the bussard collector is frosted with white paint to give the correct appearance when 'off' as well as 'on'. The punched out plate is used to cast a clear resin replacement - the same is done at the back of the engine nacelle.

The row of reactor led's bonded to the hull

Hull top half, showing the warp engine bulkheads - positioned so that the led's fill each panel of the warp engine window evenly. Note the vert tight arrangement of the warp bulkheads and the bussard cover enclosing the red led - and there's a navigation led behind that lot too!

The flasher card is also installed, as is the fibre-optic cable bundle and high intensity white led running the cabin lights ('hotel load' in Naval parlance).

By this time, space is getting tight, but it's going to get worse....

It all comes together at once. The bulkheads are all in place, the wiring loom is run and bonded down, and the power socket is very rigidly fixed. The flasher circuit is installed, and the hull halves are now tied together by the wiring loom. The model was like this for a few days while it was tested - it only gets bonded together when everything has been rigorously checked.

After filling and sanding the bad joins (biggest was just over 3mm between the rear engine bulkheads and the hull), painting starts. The whole thing is sprayed with yellow hi-build primer and 1200 grit sanded, then white primer. The next coat is the light grey base colour. The stage shown here is the second grey panelling highlight, with extensive masking. The paint bottles are some of the 9 colours required, excluding the weathering, sealing and toning coats.

After the painting was complete, 1mm holes were drilled through the windows underneath and 1mmx5mm acryllic light guide plugs were inserted to simulate the windows, finishing the model.

About 4 days later, and the painting is over. The steps are:

the surface is gloss varnished to hide the decal backing marks and give good adhesion, the decals are applied, the surface is re-sealed with laquer, then toned down with a matt acryllic coat, weathered with paint, chalk and graphite, then sealed with mattcoat.

Now it can be photographed

A nice beauty pass, showing the cabin lights underneath near the back (these are almost never seen in the episodes).

Another shot under the same lighting conditions - two fluorescent torches with blue cellophane covers and it's own lighting...

...and the same thing, with internal lights only.

Here's another pair before going off to customers.

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